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Consumer concerns about animal welfare are here understood to consist of attitudes and knowledge about issues relevant to animal welfare. They arise in consumption related areas that imply some direct or indirect form of human animal relation. Examples are human animal relations in food production, leisure, sport, work and science.
It would be desirable, to discuss and compare consumer concerns across these issues. However, it cannot be done here. The focus of this paper is on consumer concerns about animal welfare in food production. Briefly touched is animal testing. Left out are issues like animals used as pets, animals in zoos, in sport and also fishing. These issues reflect the German literature as it is known to us.2
Concern about animal welfare in Germany has not always centred on food production and animal testing. Only a century ago, animal protectionists were mainly concerned about working animals like horses and dogs. Data presented in this chapter suggest that concern about animals in food production has risen substantially over the past thirty and more clearly the past fifteen years.
What causes the nature and level of consumer concerns about animal welfare to change?
We cannot give a satisfactory answer here nor review the numerous answers given to similar questions elsewhere.3 Suffice be an attempt to classify possible causes and explanations. Consumer concern can be seen to arise when wanted and perceived level of animal welfare do not match, which might be due to the following reasons4:
1. Changes in animal welfare demanded: kind of preferences for animal welfare, incomes, willingness to process relevant information, market saturation and respective changes need to be considered.
2. Supply and availability of „animal welfare“ is determined by factors like production methods, distribution and nature of human animal relation. A relevant question is whether today’s husbandry practices are worse than they used to be. Also considered is what animals are used for in society: Obviously, concern about horses used for transport should decline, once they are replaced by cars and lorries. Scandalous incidences as representing temporary bad practices also need to be mentioned.
3. Quantity and quality of supplied information related to issues of animal welfare is a further factor affecting consumer concern. It can be summarised under „demand side explanations“, if the supplied information always equals that demanded. Information is supplied by the media, interest groups, marketing, science and others.
Reflecting the German literature on consumer concerns about animal welfare, this chapter is restricted mostly to describe rather than explain. Therefore not all of the explanatory factors are looked at in detail. For example, we do not discuss aspects like media coverage, indexes of animal welfare or compare husbandry practices across time.5 If hypothesised explanatory factors are looked at, they will generally be cross-sectional rather than panel or time-series data.
A point of reference for this and the following chapters is the appendix in chapter 5, which gives technical details about the surveys and studies referred to throughout the text. Chapter 2 is divided into six subsections. Sections 2.1 to 2.5 report on various beliefs and attitudes about animal welfare, section 2.6 on further aspects of knowledge.
Under the heading „Obligations towards animals“ Section 2.1 summarises survey data on whether people generally feel ethically or socially obliged to respect issues of animal welfare and whether they perceive their behaviour to make a difference. These aspects need to be considered for a proper assessment of the „nature of consumer concerns“. Since most of the statements refer either to a certain keeping system or animal product, the section is complementary to sections 2.2 and 2.3. Section 2.2 looks at how current husbandry practices are perceived and what opinions people have about political measures to improve animal welfare. Section 2.3 evaluates animal products and how they relate to issues of animal welfare and husbandry practices.
Section 2.4 reviews what role animal welfare plays in a wider set of issues. This is important since in reality mostly not everything that is good or wanted can be done, choices need to be made. The chapter is divided into two subsections. Subsection 2.4.1 is very much about conscious priorities. These are set by people who are directly asked to prioritise a given set of issues, among which at least one is related to animal welfare. In contrast to this subsection 2.4.2 looks at topical issues, i.e. what people (stated to) know, talk or remember about animal welfare compared to other issues.
Section 2.5 looks at aspects of knowledge related to animal welfare. Whether animal experimentation is perceived as necessary for scientific tests of medical drugs is look at in section 2.6.
A point to be remembered throughout the chapter and the whole paper is that animal welfare is both a socially sensitive and ethical subject. Therefore, social answering and wishful thinking will occur, if people are directly asked what their opinion is about animal welfare. Irrespective of this, most surveys to be reported use the technique of direct questioning. This leads to very high levels of reported concern about animal welfare, which will mostly not be reflected in behaviour.6 The point will not always be noted throughout.
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